Minimum legal age to get married could be raised to 18

·2-min read
Wedding Rings (PA Archive)
Wedding Rings (PA Archive)

The minimum legal age to get married in the UK could be raised to 18 after ministers indicated that they would support the move.

Currently, 16-year-olds are allowed to marry with their parents’ consent - something which campaigners have argued can facilitate sexual abuse when women are forced to marry against their will.

According to The Times, former chancellor Sajid Javid will introduce a private member’s bill next week that will make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to marry.

Speaking to the paper, the senior Conservative backbencher said he viewed 16-year-olds being forced to marry as “child abuse”.

“The British government is working tirelessly to end child marriage in the developing world and yet our own laws are permitting child marriage by the back door,” he said.

“Indeed, when Bangladesh lowered the legal age of marriage from 18 to 16, ministers there were said to have directly pointed to our laws to justify their move.

“It’s clear that we must legislate to close this loophole so that vulnerable children cannot be pushed into such serious and life-changing commitments before they are ready.”

Mr Javid added that while the Government haven’t yet confirmed that they’ll be supporting his bill, he is “optimistic” that they can work together to combat child marriage.

The publication reports justice ministers have suggested to Mr Javid that they will back his bill and give it time on the floor of the House of Commons.

Previous attempts by backbench MPs to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 have failed, including one by Pauline Latham.

In 2020, a charity found girls at risk of child marriage are falling under the radar of authorities in England and Wales because of a lack of record-keeping by more than half of the departments responsible for children’s social care.

Responses collected under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that between 2018 and 2019, there were 165 children in England and Wales at risk of child marriage.

However, 56 per cent of departments responsible for children’s social care were found not recording how many minors were at risk of child marriage.

IKWRO women’s rights organisation said it is vital authorities document every possible case of these crimes to understand and respond to their prevalence on a national level.

Last year, IKWRO founder Diana Nammi, told The Guardian: “We know through years working with survivors as well as data collected from police forces that they affect nearly every local authority in the country.”

The Ministry of Justice, which oversees marriage law, has been approached for comment.

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